Nov 5, 2013

Coming back from an injury- emotional

One of the hardest parts of coming back from an injury is the emotional trauma. An injury costs not just physical prowess, but a level of trust-- in yourself, in other skaters, in the individuals advising you. Adults especially become very skittish after an injury.

The most important aspect of emotional readiness is to be confident in your physical readiness. Don't get back on the ice if you are not 100% sure that your injury is healed (okay, 90% because you're more ready than you think you are). As stated in the post on physical injury, this is your call in consultation with your doctor. Not the coach, not the parent, not the calendar.

Here are some things you can do to regain your confidence:

Safety equipment
Head injury? Wear a helmet, or better yet an Ice Halo*. Children (and I include teens in that) are often reluctant to look different than their peers, and yes, a standard skating helmet stands out on the ice if you're older than 6. Further, it is inappropriate for freestyle. But the Ice Halo is designed for skaters. (By the way, don't use a soccer helmet-- the padding is in the wrong part of the head-- it doesn't protect the back.)

Adults should never feel constrained about wearing a helmet if it makes you feel more secure. The dirty not-much-of-a-secret of adult skating is that the people who feel contempt for you (and they are legion, sadly), aren't going to hate you any more if you wear a helmet. Wear it and be proud (and safe). Get a skateboard helmet that is flat in the back.

Other safety equipment are padding-- knee, elbow, wrist, hip. Wrist and elbow pads or splints can be purchased at your local Walgreen's and are fine. For hip and knee pads, get ones that are designed for sports. Especially knee pads need to be appropriate for skating-- the wide, stiff ones can make it more hazardous rather than more safe.

Take it slow
This is exactly the same advice as for physical recovery. Try it out. Go to an empty session and just slowly skate around. "Get your legs under you" so to speak. You're ready to get back into training when you don't get an adrenalin reaction from just stepping onto the ice.

Skate at your comfort level
Don't worry about getting your axel back. After my third foot injury I just decided that I was perfectly happy with my Adult Bronze plateau. I still "train" but I just do it for the joy of the wind in my hair and the elevated heart rate; I'm not trying to learn anything new anymore. I stopped jumping completely (I barely even do bunny hops anymore.) Think about whether your injury has changed your goals, and then go for it. It's not "settling"-- done right it's a positive, empowering step that puts you in charge.

Skate with someone
After my second (third? who can remember anymore) foot injury, I was extremely skittish about skating. My friend and coach Adam offered to essentially hold me up for about a month. I just skated slowly around with him until I got my confidence back.

Wall crawl
This is in the helmets-are-stupid category. Don't worry about what others are thinking. No one is watching you. (Really. No one is watching you.) If you don't have a solid skating friend like mine, use the wall. I predict you'll get 20 feet down the wall and will feel fine and start skating.

How long has it taken you to regain your confidence after an injury? What helped you? What was harder to overcome-- the physical or the emotional recovery?

*Ice Halo gives a 10% discount if you put Xanboni in the Notes field on their Paypal order form. I do not receive compensation for this- I just really believe in the product.


  1. It took the whole summer to recover physically from my high ankle sprain, and a few more months to get better emotionally. I wore one of those tube-shaped braces with the heel cut out for weeks every time I skated. It gave me just the confidence I needed. When I lightly twisted my other ankle carrying a laundry basket (the hazards of being a grown-up), I switched the brace to the other foot -- and then suddenly after one day of skating I realized that the really bad ankle really is completely healed. I never even thought about it.

    I guess this is the old, silly principle of "here, let me punch your arm so you forget about the pain in your foot," but emotionally it did work.

  2. Sometimes I think my blog is mostly 'return to skating'. In the last 4 years, broken ankle, throat surgery, torn meniscus, bad back, shingles. I've become a big believer in lap skating. After the last injury I took several weeks of just skating laps before I started lessons again. My first try I could barely make 30 min. Now I'm up to 2 hours.

    Building muscle up again after being off ice is my go to method of starting over again. Just stroking around without any pressure to jump or spin, or even do a crossover, is what I needed most.

  3. I ruptured all the ligaments in my ankle back in January and months of PT and finally a cortisone shot followed. It was only after the cortisone shot in June that I felt like I could start to regain my confidence! But I still have hairy moments - while physically I'm fine (most of the time) the fear of repeating the injury is still there when I do the same steps as what caused the original injury. I focused on building up muscle strength, and ensuring that I was always properly warmed up before stepping foot on the ice. Emotional fear has lingered long past the physical injury.

  4. Hey Xan, I was wondering, why is a helmet unsuitable for freestyle? I'm moving to an area without an ice rink, and planning to switch to roller, which I will mostly practice outdoors. I'm going to wear a helmet for that, at least for the outdoor part, and probably at least an Ice Halo indoors. Is there something about helmets that will impede jumping? (Other than the slight aerodynamic issue?)

  5. I broke my R wrist in 2004 due to a collision. After I got back on the ice I found that I couldn't wear a wrist brace; it made me nervous and reminded me of the injury.

    When I broke my foot in 2009 (off-ice injury on spin trainer) I didn't realize for a couple of weeks that it was broken because it didn't hurt when I was wearing my boot :-).

  6. Curiously, it was an injury that made me more confident in my abilities as a skater. I broke my nose on a double toe loop at the end of June last year, but luckily it was pretty minor. I was back on the ice the next day, and doing doubles again within three days. It suddenly became a lot easier for me- I guess I sort of realized, "Oh, that's pretty much the worst that can happen to me. That wasn't so bad! Maybe it wouldn't kill me to try jumping a little higher or going for it a little more".